Department of State officials will recommend an approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as early as Friday,the Associated Press reports.
Such a move would reverse a 2015 decision by former President Barack Obama’s administration to block the project from transporting oil from Canada’s tar sands region across the Great Plains to Nebraska.
A recommendation to approve the 1,700-mile pipeline will come from Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon the Associated Press reported, adding President Donald Trump would then formally issue his approval.
Environmentalists have argued the project, which is designed to carry 830,000 barrels of crude per day, would contribute to the release of excessive amounts of greenhouse gas. Republican supporters believe it would provide an economic boost with construction jobs and energy independence.
Trump’s approval, however, would not be enough for TransCanada, the pipeline builder, to complete the project. The Nebraska Public Service Commission must also sign off on construction in the state and their review is expected to stretch into the fall.
A spokesman for TransCanada was noncommittal when asked by The Huffington Post whether the company expected to be cleared for the next phase of construction.
“We do anticipate a decision by the State Department during the 60 days they have been given,” Terry Cunha said in an email. “At the moment, we continue to work with the Administration on our Presidential Permit application.”
The 60-day timeline for review mentioned by Cunha expires on Monday.
President Donald Trump, in one of his earliest executive actions, had breathed new life and a fresh round of debate into the moribund project by inviting TransCanada to resubmit Keystone XL for review.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday only that the Trump administration would have an update Friday about the project.
”We have no announcements regarding the Keystone XL decision, including timing,” a State Department spokeswoman said in a statement to HuffPost. The State Department has decision-making authority over the pipeline, because it cross the border with Canada.
Politico reported that it had verified the State Department’s intent with two unnamed sources, adding that the approval could come by Monday.
Supporters and opponents of the project, however, began issuing reactions to the anticipated approval
“The Keystone XL pipeline is not in our national interest,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), co-chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force. “Encouraging the production of this oil, which includes Canadian tar sands – one of the dirtiest fuels in the world – is a huge step backward. Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and we need to be moving forward with policies to support clean energy.”
The League of Conservation Voters said that the decision was disappointing, but not a surprise because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had for years worked for energy giant Exxon Mobil.
“Of course, it comes as no surprise that a State Department run by the former CEO of Exxon Mobil and an administration rife with climate deniers who have acted against public health, the environment and the clean energy economy at every turn would make such a misguided decision,” the group said. “This pipeline is all risk and no reward, and we will continue to fight it every step of the way.”
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Lena Moffitt predicted that there would be reinvigorated opposition to the pipeline. Environmentalists demonstrated for years against the Keystone XL during the Obama administration and it has inspired movements seeking to thwart similar projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“There’s a new reality when it comes to pipelines,” Moffitt told HuffPost. “These massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects don’t make sense.”
An energy expert for the conservative Heritage Foundation said the project is environmentally safe and will not contribute significantly to climate change.
“We look forward to the State Department’s approval of Keystone XL which will reestablish some certainty and sanity to a permitting process that was hijacked by political pandering,” Heritage Foundation energy expert Nick Loris wrote. “This is a shovel-ready infrastructure project that will create thousands of construction jobs and safely deliver more oil to American refineries, lowering prices at the pump for families. The phrase ‘better late than never’ certainly applies here.”
Trump had touted a supposed extra economic benefit to American workers by promising that the Keystone XL, as well as the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, would be constructed with American steel. But the Trump administration revealed earlier this month that the made-in-America requirement doesn’t apply to the Keystone XL developer any longer.
Only completely new pipelines must follow the rule.